Beau will be here shortly. In the meantime, here’s a quick preview of today’s game courtesy of our friends at the Associated Press:
With two games left in qualifying for the World Cup, the United States head into a showdown against Panama in Orlando knowing that winning the last home match will be key before going on the road for the finale.
The US romped over the Panamanians 4-0 in October 2017 as Christian Pulisic scored the first goal and set up the second. Needing only a draw four days later, the Americans flopped to a 2-1 defeat at Trinidad and Tobago, a nadir in American soccer that ended a streak of seven straight World Cup appearances.
“Every game comes with pressure, different pressure, and, of course, we feel it,” goalkeeper Zack Steffen said Saturday. “We’re aware of the emotions, of our emotions going into it, and it’s just about kind of putting those on the backburner and going out there and playing the game that we’ve been playing for our whole lives.”
Canada lead Concacaf qualifying with 25 points and the US are second with 22, ahead of Mexico on goal difference. Costa Rica are fourth with 19, and Panama fifth with 18. The top three nations qualify for this year’s World Cup, and fourth place advances to a playoff against the Oceania champion, likely New Zealand.
The US can clinch Sunday with a victory and Costa Rica failing to win at El Salvador, or with a draw if Los Ticos lose. A US draw would guarantee no worse than the playoff spot. With a plus-nine goal difference to Costa Rica’s plus-two, a win would put the US in position to head to Costa Rica at most needing to avoid a lopsided defeat.
“It’s really important not to get ahead of ourselves,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said. “I know there are similarities to last time, but we’re looking forward. I don’t think this is a group that looks back. We acknowledge what happened in the past. It’s part of who we are as US men’s national team players and program. We acknowledge that, but we have to forge our own path, and tomorrow’s a good time to do it.”
Goalkeeper Matt Turner, right back Sergino Dest, central defender Chris Richards and midfielders Weston McKennie and Brenden Aaronson are injured, backup right-back DeAndre Yedlin and winger Tim Weah are suspended and No 3 right back Reggie Cannon is out with Covid-19. Shaq Moore was brought in from Spain to meet the team in Orlando and appeared likely to start at right back.
The US are coming off Thursday’s 0-0 draw against Mexico at altitude in Mexico City, when the Americans had the better chances. The US followed the emotional high of a home win over El Tri in November with a bumpy 1-1 draw at Jamaica.
“It was just a totally different atmosphere, and we knew it was going to be a tough game, an ugly game and something we just had to grind through,” Steffen said. “This time, I think getting a point at Azteca, all the energy and emotions exerted there, we didn’t get too high, we didn’t get too low. Coming back to Orlando, where we’re all focused, just kind of just to stay in the moment.”